By Basheer Luqman Olarewaju
‘Building the Nation’ by Henry Barlow presents a story of a Driver and a Personal Secretary on how they contribute to their nation. Our country is designed to work for the power that be and pitiably working against the electorates. In this week’s column on ‘People in the spotlight’, we shall be journeyed through how the masses work and wear out with meagre reward in the end, just to feed themselves and families. Meanwhile, the leaders consume all in the national and state treasury for their personal gains.
An african proverb says, love, like rain, does not choose the grass on which to fall. Meaning: there are two subjects in this world that cannot be defined. At best, they can only be described. By far, they are the two most important subjects in this world. They are the foundation of all other virtues. They are love and truth. Without them the other virtues cease to exist. Without love there is no real joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. Without truth, we don’t even know what all these are.
Anyway, since this proverb is about love, let’s focus on love.
Now, love is what gives value to our actions and achievements. Without love no matter how highly we think of our actions and achievements they are nothing! The opposite of love is not just hate. It is more than that. The opposite of love is the opposite of all the virtues mentioned above. That is, the opposite of love is lack of joy, peace, patience, kindness and all the rest. And love like rain does not choose the grass on which it falls. Anyone at all can be loved. Love is neither discriminatory nor narrow-minded. It is catholic in its choices.
We all contribute either towards or against the growth and development of our country. We are in a country where love is scarce and selfishness rents the ambience of all nooks and crannies in the country. We live in time where the rich walk miles to dispose food, sadly, the poor need to walk miles to get access to food. Just even tea spoons.
Henry Barlow’s ‘Building the Nation’ is a witty depiction of two nation-builders: one is the Driver and another is the Permanent Secretary of the state. They both suffer from chronic ulcers but in a different manner. The former’s illness is caused by hunger. Overeating caused the latter ulcer. In this way, Barlow humourously shares their story to point at the basic hollowness of the officials appointed to work for the nation. While the real nation builders are those who do their job wholeheartedly. Be it a taxi driver or a daily wager, they all have their fair share in nation building.
Barlow’s main persona, the Driver, begins this piece by saying he drove a Personal Secretary to an important luncheon. The secretary had a number of lavish dishes. Though he ate those items, he was still hungry. He asked the driver for some food. But, the driver had not any food to offer him. It made the secretary a bit frustrated. He started to comment on his illness caused by overeating. The person who was driving the car also had issues with his stomach caused by hunger. Ironically, nation-building left them with nothing but “terrible stomach pains”.
Sadly, the items the secretary had in the luncheon hint at the resourcefulness of the upper-class people. Whereas the poor or those who have a meager income suffer from hunger. The theme of hunger is depicted from different perspectives. For example, the secretary is hungry even after he had a great luncheon. While the driver is hungry due to his financial state. So, the former is not actually hungry, he is greedy. The real nation builders are those who relentlessly do their job, not the ones who serve their greed and selfishness.